2016 set to be hottest year on record | Environment| All topics from climate change to conservation | DW | 22.12.2016
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2016 set to be hottest year on record

The year 2016 is likely to be the warmest year since records began. According to provisional data, global temperature has already risen by around 1.2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial times.

As climate change denier Donald Trump prepares for inauguration next month, scientists have released new figures to show that global warming isn't letting up.

The year 2016 looks likely to set new temperature records. The two previous years each set new records for highest average global temperature since precise measurements were first taken in 1880. 

According to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the planet's temperature above land and sea averaged 14.94 degrees Celsius from January to November - 0.06 degrees warmer than the same period last year.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) also predicts 2016 is likely to be the hottest year on record. According to UN estimates, the global temperature in 2016 was 14.88 degrees - 1.2 degrees higher than before the industrial revolution began in the mid-19th century. Data from the WMO put the average global temperature between 1961 and 1990 at 14 degrees.

The British Met Office also projected that 2017 was likely to be the third-warmest year, behind 2016 and 2015.

Arctic ice retreating

Temperatures are rising particularly rapidly in Arctic, resulting dramatic loss of ice sheets. According to NOAA data, average Arctic surface temperature in 2015 was 2.8 degrees above that at the beginning of the 20th century.

The US National Snow and Ice Data Center reports that Arctic ice cover in November was at its lowest in the 38 years since satellite measurements have been available. At just 9.08 million square meters, it was nearly 2 million square meters less than the average for mid-November between 1981 and 2010.

Without ice cover to reflect the sun's rays, the sea temperature rises rapidly. "The ocean is going crazy," concluded the NOAA, referring to the Arctic region and heavy storms in the Bering Sea.

Hurricanes, like Matthew, which ravaged Haiti and parts of the southeast of the USA, are also fueled by rising ocean temperatures.

More extreme weather on the way

Also alarming climate scientists is the growing concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere, which contributes to global warming. The pre-industrial CO2 level was 280 parts per million (ppm). According to NOAA, it had risen to nearly 400 ppm in 2015, up by 2.2 ppm on the previous year.

For low-lying countries like Bangladesh, which already suffered catastrophic flooding in 2015, the resulting sea level rise is a major threat.

Bangladesch Hochwasser in Dhaka

Low-lying countries like Bangladesh are already suffering the consequences of rising sea levels

Climate scientists predict that with the current CO2 concentration in the atmosphere, temperatures will rise further in the coming decades. If CO2 emissions continue at this rate, the agreed global warming limit of 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius is unlikely to be met.

Staying below agreed limits

According to climate research data, global warming of just 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels will have dramatic consequences. Weather would continue to become more extreme, coral reefs around the world would be at risk, and the sea level could rise 1.5 meters by the year 2300. 

The Potsdam Institute for Climate Research predicts that a temperature rise of 2 degrees would result in a sea level rise of between 2 and 3 meters by 2300.

The giant Greenland ice sheet could reach a tipping point - for islands and many coastal cities, this would be a disaster.

Beyond 2 degrees, the world would be heading for complete ice loss in the northern hemisphere, with even more dramatic rises in sea level.

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